A new year of world art

Ambassador of Culture of Malta FRANCIS SULTANA shares its third monthly column on arts and culture in collaboration with Malta timetables, in which he presents a set of must-see local and international exhibitions with a common thread.

As we draw the line from the difficult year that 2021 was, we can only hope that 2022 will bring lasting change for all of us – a year of positivity, enterprise and the outpouring of creativity. I am excited for the coming year as many projects that my studio and I have been working on, under difficult circumstances, will finally be launched.

If you are looking for inspiration to unleash your creativity, I highly recommend a trip to Paris. A glimpse of the spectacular architecture, the sweeping avenues, the thrill of shopping and the fun of culture – this will really give you the boost you need to go out and create in 2022.

For those looking for a show to get you in the mood, there is nothing better than Thierry Mugler – Couturissime to Decorative Arts Museum at the Louvre. A true fashion innovator and visionary, Mugler’s work has over the past 30 years become a symbol of extravagance, exaggeration, futurism, eroticism and total commitment to art.

Set over two floors in MAD’s newly renovated fashion galleries, the show covers Mugler’s approach to couture, music, photography and theater. For all those who love fashion, let yourself be carried away by George Michael’s soundtrack and wander down the most glamorous paths of memory, passing through iconic and extreme silhouettes, fetishized fabrics, famous faces (from Jerry Hall to Eva Herzigova, Linda Evangelista to Diana Ross) and the incredible places – from the roof of the Paris Opera to the Sahara Desert. Pure fashion escape and just the right tonic to start the year. The show lasts until April 24.

Francois Sultane. Photo: Jonathan Glynn Smith

Hogarth and Europe, an exhibition which runs at Tate Britain until March, has had a lot of press recently – both on the contemporary cultural purpose of the exhibition and on the actual content of the work, which includes over 60 works by William Hogarth, some rarely seen in Public.

For me, what is interesting about the exhibition is how the artist, alongside his contemporaries in France, Holland and Italy, captured the enormous change that was occurring in the 18th century and the birth of the “modern” era. Across Europe, society was witnessing a huge transformation, as luxury reached new heights as poverty, especially with the backdrop of cities like London, Paris and Venice, hit new lows.

Much like social media today, in the works of Hogarth we see side by side the astonishing achievements of society and its terrible catastrophes: the super rich, the corrupt and the immoral, the poor and the oppressed, the altruistic and the extraordinary.

'Portrait of Crouching George Dyer' (1966) by Francis Bacon (oil on canvas, 198 x 147 cm).  Private collection.  Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.‘Portrait of George Dyer Crouching’ (1966) by Francis Bacon (oil on canvas, 198 x 147 cm). Private collection. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.

William Hogarth offered a lens of tongue-in-cheek truth through which the audience was able to see the reality of those in power as well as those who are like them, often with a cautionary subtext.

The exhibition is presented alongside Hogarth’s continental contemporaries in France, Italy and Amsterdam, proof, if it were needed, that England has always been and will always remain closely linked to its European friends and neighbors. Hogarth and Europe operates at Tate Britain until March.

Maltese artist Giorgio Preca, like Francis Bacon, was considered by many in Malta to be too avant-garde

Like Hogarth, Francis Bacon was an artist who removed societal norms and focused on the essentials of what makes us human. It was Bacon’s belief that the beast, the animal in us, is never far from the surface and under the veneer of civilization, humans are just animals, like any other creature.

Growing up through some of the most chaotic and disturbing times of the 20th century, Bacon lived across Europe and in London as an openly gay man, at a time when things were very different from acceptance. today.

'Head VI' (1949) by Francis Bacon (oil on canvas, 91.4 x 76.2 cm).  Collection of the Arts Council, Southbank Center, London.  Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd‘Head VI’ (1949) by Francis Bacon (oil on canvas, 91.4 x 76.2 cm). Collection of the Arts Council, Southbank Center, London. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

Bacon’s experience of the visceral nature of life and the disintegration of mankind, and of man’s capacity for cruelty, is the basis of much of his work and the subject of a new show The man and the beast at the Royal Academy in London, which opens on January 29.

The highlight of the exhibition will be three paintings of bullfights which are shown together for the first time – the combination of savagery and eroticism and the conflict of human authority over animals is incredibly powerful, as is the last painting ever produced by Bacon in 1991 Study of a bull.

As a Bacon collector, it is the oscillation between the monumental and the intimate, the universal and the personal, that will make this show particularly powerful. The relationship between Bacon and George Dyer, her lover for many years, is particularly poignant and tragic. Francis Bacon: The Man and the Beast will be open until April 17, 2022.

Maltese artist Giorgio Preca, like Bacon, was considered by many in Malta to be too avant-garde when he was working in the middle of the 20th century and struggling to show his work at home. While her contemporary artists loved the bold modernist spirit of Preca’s work, it was in Italy that the artist gained the most attention through a series of solo and joint exhibitions.

One of Giorgio Preca's self-portraits painted in the 1930s.One of Giorgio Preca’s self-portraits painted in the 1930s.

Despite this, Preca has always been very proud to be Maltese, hence the title of this show – Giorgio Preca ta ‘Malta: an international artist with a modern spirit. Preca’s work is bold, dynamic and full of vigor. Landscapes, abstracts and still lifes, borrowed from the artist’s family collection, were brought to Malta.

An interesting exhibition of an oft-overlooked champion of mid-century Maltese modernism, I am delighted to see MUŻA bring recognition to this artist who so epitomizes Maltese modernism and more than deserves to take his place in 20th century Maltese art .

Giorgio Preca (1909-1984) ta ‘Malta: an international artist with a modern spirit is open until February 27 at MUŻA.

Stay tuned for the next monthly cultural column in February. If you want to find out what I do each month, follow me on Instagram @francis_sultana.

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